Give Cole Caufield an opening, and you might find the puck in the back of your net.
Do it twice, and you'll likely find another mark in the loss column.
That's what happened to the Gophers men's hockey team on Friday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci as Caufield, the nation's leading scorer, delivered an early strike and a late dagger in Wisconsin's 4-1 victory in the Border Battle series opener. The first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens scored on a breakaway 1:04 into the game, then got the game-winner with 7 minutes left in the third period. Dylan Holloway added a goal and an assist in the third for Wisconsin.
With the victory, the 11th-ranked Badgers (12-7, 10-5 Big Ten) own two wins in three games against the No. 2 Gophers (15-4, 11-4) this season. Wisconsin has whittled the Gophers' Big Ten lead to two points (33-31) entering Saturday night's series finale.
"We just had a bad rhythm with us tonight and never got on track,'' said Gophers coach Bob Motzko, whose team had amassed 30 goals in back-to-back sweeps of Arizona State and Ohio State entering the weekend.
The Gophers got a goal from captain Sammy Walker and 29 saves from goalie Jack LaFontaine. Robbie Beydoun stopped 24 shots for Wisconsin.
Caufield made sure the Gophers were in a hole from the start, when he got behind Minnesota's defense, collected a pass from center Ty Pelton-Byce and fired the puck past LaFontaine. The play started when the Gophers turned the puck over near the Wisconsin blue line.
"I was kind of the one that give it to him,'' Gophers captain Sammy Walker said. "I'm wishing I had that one back.''
"I'm upset he got behind our 'D,' '' Motzko added. "He's not going to miss too often.''
Led by the Linus Weissbach-Pelton-Byce-Caufield line, Wisconsin held a territorial advantage early in the second period and prevented the Gophers from getting their first shot on goal of the period until 8:01 had elapsed.
That first shot was a big one, though. Walker took a backhand pass from Scott Reedy and blasted a shot past Beydoun to tie the score 1-1.
The Gophers played their best stretch of the game early in the third period, and it appeared they would take a 2-1 lead at 7:10. Sampo Ranta had a wide-open net after Beydoun gave up a juicy rebound of a Brock Faber shot. Instead, Ranta fired wide and looked to the rafters in frustration.
"If Sampo buries that open net, it gives us a different feel because we were playing pretty well,'' Motzko said. "Then, it evaporated on us in two minutes.''
Caufield and Holloway, an Edmonton Oilers first-round draftee, made sure of that.
First, Weissbach fed Caufield on a two-on-one rush, and the 5-7 sophomore shot the puck past LaFontaine for his 16th goal of the season and 30th point, which both lead the nation. Caufield is on a six-game goal-scoring streak, the last three with two each.
Only 42 seconds later on a delayed penalty, Holloway split the Gophers defense, rushed in on LaFontaine and scored for a 3-1 lead. He then assisted on Roman Ahcan's power-play goal at 15:18.
"When you make mistakes, they're going to score,'' Walker said. "That showed tonight.''
The Star Tribune reporter did not attend this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.